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New Job, No Problem!

I ascend the stairs sandwiched between two escalators. It’s the most efficient way to get around campus—we often discussed in Physical Activity: Promotion and Adherence how few people take the main stairs on campus, despite it being faster. According to my Fitbit, today I ascended 8 flights of stairs going to and from my office on the third floor of the university.

Yep, an office not in my house. Weird. I share the space with a coworker, who has very much of the knowledge about how to do this job stored in her brain (She’s also very fun and has told me it’s 100% okay to listen to podcasts while I am working, which mostly involves—thus far—counting paper). New jobs can always bring some uncertainty with asthma, though, and this one was no different.

Asthma in the workplace

This is my first office job, and I correctly anticipated that there would be fewer asthma-related concerns and trigger exposures than other jobs I’ve previously held. Daycare worker—chemicals, fragrances, germs, exercise at work, weather—probably more. Ditto camps, plus sometimes fires/smoke, plus walking forever with a day of my life in a backpack at day camp. Tennis tournament assistant—weather/heat/humidity, air quality, being outside forever.

So, really, while I’m not sure how often my office is vacuumed, my only real concern going in was perfume-y coworkers, and that has so far been a needless contemplation. If that were to arise, there are scent-free guidelines (though not a policy) on campus, and the Accessibility Services staff know me from my time as a student (though they do work with students more-so than staff as far as I know). Really, my only pseudo-asthma problem so far has been that I keep booking it up those stairs and am a tad breathless upon getting to the top. Which is fine so long as I have a moment to catch my breath before I have to be conversational.

Disclosure: A matter of conversation.

I’ve written before on the issue of disclosure when you have asthma. My new boss knows much of my background from our previous encounters (and his conversations with my mom), but we haven’t had a specific conversation about asthma. My coworker and I haven’t specifically discussed it yet, either—we haven’t needed to. I’m more than open to the conversation coming up, but I’m also happy to talk about far more interesting things—like podcasts, what 4-year-olds are into, and my failures at using the university’s e-mail system and accidentally sending an e-mail to a random faculty member because I have no clue what Outlook is doing (yes, that happened today…).

Weighing the options

When choosing if a job is right for you, it also has to be right for your asthma—and in a lot of cases, that comes down to the work environment. While asthma does not have to be the first thing you consider when choosing a job, it should certainly be part of the deliberations—with some forethought, you can have a plan in place for what to do if certain triggers are an issue in your workplace, and know where to go to resolve them. Knowing your rights to a healthy and safe workplace is also an important tool when it comes to self-advocacy!

What are your tips for balancing a new job (or old!) with asthma?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Heather Savageau
    12 months ago

    The room I work in is a little on the dusty side, but soon after I started I talked to my manager and got a humidifier for the room to help with how dry it was. I’m working to get a purifier now. There’s a lot of people in the room with me and a new project just moved in, so there’s been some issue lately with triggers. Most of the people know about my asthma because I’m super sensitive to a lot of things but sometimes people forget. I told people from the time I started though because when I get sick, it always goes to my lungs and knocks me out of commission for a few weeks, so given that my job requires staffing 365/366 days a year and often with just 1 person a day it seemed only fair to give them warning that it could be an issue if I get sick. I also have couch type asthma so my attacks generally sound more like I’m sick to people not used to seeing/hearing my attacks and I wanted to make sure they knew that if I had coughing fits it doesn’t mean I’m sick.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    12 months ago

    Hi Heather and thanks for your post. We appreciate you sharing your current situation with asthma and your work environment. It does sound like you have been able to bring this under a certain level of control for your condition in this (work) environment. It’s also good to hear you’ve been able to share (with your employer) about your condition and how important it is for you to stay healthy on the job. You seem to have ‘covered all your bases’. Keep up the good work, Heather! Leon (site moderator)

  • krishwaecosse
    1 year ago

    For me it’s always been a case of trial and error. I work in Deaf education and as such have to often go out on special trips depending on what the pupils are doing. In one school I was working with children who went riding (horses). I’m really quite allergic and it sets off my asthma, but as it was outdoors and I was able to sit at a distance it wasn’t too much of a problem.
    However at a different school when they went riding it was to an indoor stable. The first time I went along I found myself having a major attack and was in no for state to look after the pupils . Speaking to my boss I was able to arrange something different to do during that block. It was having the confidence to say that this wasn’t working for me and finding an alternative.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi krishwaecosse and thanks for your post. We appreciate you sharing the two different scenarios you faced on the job. Being your own best self advocate and, working with an employer who was understanding, you were able to minimize the exposure to yourself – keep yourself working and not have any (allergy) issues.
    Keep up the good work!
    Leon (site moderator)

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